School safety assessments: A career-saving action for new and experienced superintendents

Posted by on March 2, 2015

Recently I was speaking with a superintendent who is a client and a good friend. She mentioned that one of the best things she did in her first year as superintendent was have a safety and security assessment performed.

Placing school safety at the top of the superintendent’s priority list

The assessment was not on her “top ten list” when she became superintendent, but it should have been, she noted. When starting in her new role, she held meetings with all key staff, reviewed curriculum and evaluated other functions in the district, but not safety and security. Then a minor incident occurred which needed to be coordinated with first responders, the media and the community at-large, which is how we first met.

While the event was minor in the bigger picture of school safety events, it was major in her rural community. In fact, it remained an issue for months. But the assessment saved the day for this superintendent as she was able to communicate with all stakeholders what steps had been taken. When the written report was received, she was once again able to reach out to the community and discuss the positive steps the district was taking to improve school safety.

A veteran deputy school superintendent also reached out to Ken Trump shortly after assuming his first superintendent position last year. We had worked with this now-superintendent several times during his tenure in his previous district. Taking action on his belief that safety is his top priority, this superintendent’s charge to us was clear: Help him to identify the strengths and gaps in his new district so he could immediately focus on making their schools as safe as he possibly could do from the onset of his superintendency.

Pay now or pay later: Investing in school safety assessments on the front-end can save money, and careers, later on

In today’s difficult times, the cost of an assessment is not inexpensive. Just like any other professional education service, there are professional fees and expenses associated with bringing specialists and experts into a school district. But what is the real cost to a district and a new superintendent if there is not a plan or procedure in place to address many of the common safety, security and preparedness threats schools now face?

Ask any superintendent whose district has faced an event and did not have a plan in place or a trusted school safety partner to turn to for advice and help. The cost may not only be life-threatening, but also career-threatening. So the question for new superintendents is clear: Have you had a safety and security assessment done to tell you what strengths and gaps exist in the district you now lead?

But for more seasoned superintendents, there are also career-saving questions as well:

  • How long has it been since your district conducted a school safety assessment?
  • Has the school/community environment changed since the last professional assessment you had conducted?
  • Have you ever had an assessment performed by independent preK-12 school safety experts?

Superintendents are tasked with enormous responsibilities and the most talented of superintendent is still challenged by all she or he has to juggle. Some superintendents opt to play “risk management” and hope that by saving a few dollars on the front-end they will be able to get by with nothing happening in their school-community. For some this may work, but far too many school leaders who risk playing the odds find that when one flies by the seat of his or her pants, their anatomy may easily be exposed.

Are you willing to roll the dice with school safety and take a risk that exposes your school district’s safety and liability, and potentially your career?

Chuck Hibbert

Consultant to National School Safety and Security Services

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